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Greece's deceptive recovery

Spiros Moskovou / bk
November 28, 2014

A new general strike has once again brought attention to Greece. But aren't the tough austerity measures following the euro crisis finally paying dividends? Spiros Moskovou is skeptical.

Griechenland Generalstreik 27.11.2014
Image: AFP/Getty Images/L. Gouliamaki

In April, Athens mustered the courage to take out a loan on the capital market, and the Greek economy grew in the third quarter more than any other eurozone country. Even unemployment has fallen slightly in 2014. So is the eurozone's problem child really on the road to recovery?

The appearance is deceptive. When the Greek government circulated the news in late October that Athens was about to free itself of the diktats of the International Monetary Fund, the interest on Greek loans climbed to unaffordable heights. A small economic recovery is little consolation when one considers that in the past five years of recession, the Greek economy has lost a fifth of its total volume. And in a country that has seen unemployment rise to 28 percent, a drop of half a percentage point is not particularly noticeable.

Still no solid base

This is not to trivialize the results of Greek efforts, but they do not represent a solid basis for the future. The patient may no longer be in immediate danger, but his condition is still critical. And yet there is a good reason why the Greek government, made up of the center-right Nea Dimokratia and the Social Democrat PASOK, is making the most of the good news - the government parties don't have the 180 votes it needs to elect a new president in February. If they fail, the constitution dictates that there be new elections, and in current polls the left-wing opposition Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras, is five points ahead.

Deutsche Welle Griechenland Redaktion Spiros Moskovou
Spiros Moskovou, of DW's Greece deskImage: DW

In other words, the conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras desperately needs successes to mobilize his core voters. But real life is not helping him much. Growth in Greece is still very fragile, restructuring of inefficient state apparatuses is still very slow, tax avoidance has not been clamped down on, privatization is stalling, and austerity measures are driving more and more people to despair - younger generations in particular are struggling with a dearth of opportunities. International organizations are already warning of a long-term social crisis in Greece.

Political culture remains a problem

For more than four years now, the country has been living under the pressure of a stabilization program financed by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the IMF. But even in these unusual circumstances, the Greek parties are not in a position to achieve even a basic consensus on how to rescue the country.

Even now, they are feverishly preparing for a new election instead of trying to establish some political stability and continuity. Leading members of Syriza have even suggested demanding leftover war reparations from Germany and use them in calculations for a new budget. This might sound like a farce from the periphery of the eurozone, but it is testament to the backwardness of political culture in Greece. Anyone who wants to help the Greek people needs to keep their politicians and governments under control first.

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